Valencia v. Commissioner of Social Security
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: For the foregoing reasons, Valencia's motions for recusal and expedited consideration are denied, and his complaint is dismissed.The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that any appeal wouldnot be tak en in good faith and, therefore, in forma pauperis status is denied for the purpose of any appeal. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962). The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly and to close this case. Ordered by Judge Eric N. Vitaliano on 8/22/2014. (fwd for judgment) c/m to pro se pltf (Fernandez, Erica)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
ELIECER VALEN CIA for MAURICIO
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
IN CLERK'S OFFICE
U.S. DISTRIC"rGOURT E.D.N.Y.
AUG 2 7 2014
On March 14, 2014,pro se plaintiff Eliecer Valencia filed this complaint
seeking review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying his application for
disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act (the" Act"). Plaintiff also
seeks expedited review of this case,1 and the Court's recusal from it, by separate
motions, dated July 24, 2014. Plaintiff's request to proceed informa pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is granted, but for the reasons set forth below, the
complaint is dismissed and plaintiff's motions are denied.
'Plaintiff seeks expedited consideration of this action in light of his imminent
eviction from his apartment. ECF No. 11. The housing matter is not before the
Court, and the Court lacks jurisdiction over any eviction claims plaintiff may be
attempting to raise. See McMillan v. Dep't of Bldgs., No. 12-cv-318, 2012 WL
1450407, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. 2012). Moreover, given the Court's dismissal of this action
in its entirety, plaintiff's motion for expedited consideration is denied as moot.
On July 16, 2002, plaintiff, proceedingpro se, brought an action in this
district on behalf of his then-minor son, Mauricio, seeking review of a May 4, 1998
decision by an administrative law judge ("ALJ") denying Mauricio's claim for
disabled child Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under the Act. See
Mauricio Valencia clo Eliecer Valencia, No. 02-cv-4121, ECF No. 1. By Order dated
March 19, 2004, the Court (per Gershon, J.) entered judgment in plaintiff's favor
and remanded the case to the Commissioner for a calculation of benefits. Id., ECF
No. 22. Not satisfied with the judgment entered in his son's favor, Valencia
conducted protracted post-judgment litigation, including three completely
unsuccessful appeals to the Second Circuit.
Plaintiff, undaunted, filed a second action, on August 20, 2013, purporting to
appeal the same May 4, 1998 ALJ decision that was the subject of the prior suit.
See Mauricio Valencia clo Eliecer Valencia, No. 13-cv-4723, ECF No. 1. By Order,
dated February 19, 2014, the Court granted defendant's motion to dismiss the
second go-round administrative appeal on resjudicata grounds. Id., ECF No. 17.
The instant complaint is plaintiff's third bite at the same apple.
Standard of Review
When a plaintiff proceeds without legal representation, as Valencia does, a
court must regard that plaintiff's complaint in a more liberal light, affording the
pleadings of a pro se litigant the strongest interpretation possible. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Triestman v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
471 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam). Even so, a court must dismiss an in/orma pauperis
complaint if it "(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief
may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
There are limits to how often a court can be asked to review the same
allegations against the same party. That limitation is recognized under the doctrine
of res judicata. A district court has not only the power but the obligation to dismiss
complaints sua sponte on res judicata grounds when the litigation history triggers it.
Salahuddin v. Jones, 992 F.2d 447, 449 (2d Cir. 1993). Res judicata "bars later
litigation if an earlier decision was (1) a final judgment on the merits, (2) by a court
of competent jurisdiction, (3) in a case involving the same parties or their privies,
and (4) involving the same cause of action." EDP Med. Computer Sys., Inc. v. United
States, 480 F.3d 621, 624 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and alterations
omitted). "[l]t is the facts surrounding the transaction or occurrence which operate
to constitute the cause of action, not the legal theory upon which a litigant relies,"
that creates the bar to later litigation. Saud v. Bank of N.Y., 929 F.2d 916, 919 (2d
Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted). Valencia's newest complaint attacks
precisely the same ALJ decision and Commissioner's final order as his first two, and
for all the reasons the Court dismissed Valencia's complaint in his earlier action, it
must do so again now. See Valencia, No. 13-cv-4723, ECF No. 17.
Perhaps recognizing this necessity, and hoping that res judicata would not
apply in another judge's chambers, plaintiff also moves the Court to recuse itself.
ECF No. 10. Recusal, of course, is governed by rule. "A judicial officer is
disqualified by law from acting in any proceeding in which the officer's impartiality
might reasonably be questioned." Koehl v. Bernstein, 740 F.3d 860, 863 (2d Cir.
2014) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 455(a)) (internal quotation marks and alterations
omitted). Recusal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) is generally limited to those
circumstances in which the alleged partiality "stems from an extrajudicial source."
United States v. Carlton, 534 F.3d 97, 100 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
and alterations omitted). Accordingly, "judicial rulings alone almost never
constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion, and opinions formed by the
judge on the basis of facts introduced or events occurring in the course of the
current proceedings, or of prior proceedings, do not constitute a basis for a bias or
partiality motion unless they display a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that
would make fair judgment impossible." Weisshaus v. Fagan, 456 F. App'x 32, 35 (2d
Cir. 2012) cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 126 (2012) (citing Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S.
540, 555 (1994)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff has not demonstrated a basis for recusal. The only reason he
provides is that "the issues and related issues have been before and decided by
Judge Nina Gershon in actions 1:02-cv-04121and1:13-cv-04723." ECF No. 10. In
fact, while Judge Gershon was assigned to plaintiff's 2002 action, she did not decide
the 2013 action, as explained above. That a party is unhappy with a court's legal
rulings or other case management decisions, of course, does not constitute a valid
basis for a recusal motion. Watkins v. Smith, No. 13-cv-1123, 2014 WL 1282290, at
*1 (2d Cir. 2014). Plaintiff points to no other basis for recusal, and the Court is
aware of none. His recusal motion, therefore, is denied.
For the foregoing reasons, Valencia's motions for recusal and expedited
consideration are denied, and his complaint is dismissed.
The Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that any appeal would
not be taken in good faith and, therefore, in forma pauperis status is denied for the
purpose of any appeal. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962).
The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly and to close this
Brooklyn, New York
August 22, 2014
s/Eric N. Vitaliano
ERIC N. VITALIANO
United States District Judge
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